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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Last weekend, I flew to see my youngest daughter, "Katharine," who is 23. The point of the visit was to plan her wedding with a young man I'll call "Howard," whom she has known for less than a year. Although I approved of the wedding, I had met Howard only twice and was not overjoyed with Katharine's decision.

On the second night we went out for dinner, and Katharine announced that she and Howard are already married and she is pregnant.

How can I tactfully announce this marriage to our friends and family? -- BAFFLED IN BOSTON

DEAR BAFFLED: Announcing the marriage will be a cinch. Visit your local printer and order some lovely announcements that say something like this: "Mr. and Mrs. So-and-So announce with pleasure the marriage of their daughter, Katharine, to Howard Such-and-Such on ( )." There is no need to mention the baby that's on the way -- save that fact for a separate announcement.

DEAR ABBY: We recently moved to a new house. Within one week, we received a letter from one of our next-door neighbors. In her letter she proceeded to tell us about her last neighborhood, where one couple were "pests," the other couple had a pool (which they hated), and a third lady always wore her bikini in her yard. This woman then went on to tell us that no one in our new neighborhood (which is only four houses) wears bathing suits in their yards, but that everyone wears "decent length" shorts, and that "everyone" is opposed to swimming pools.

We are a young couple with three sons, and we plan to put a pool in next spring. I can't believe the nerve of this woman. I will not allow these neighbors' preferences to influence our decisions. Our yard is almost one acre, and she shouldn't be watching us.

That letter was so upsetting to my husband and me, I think we're just going to ignore it, but what would you do? -- STUNNED IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR STUNNED: I would start making friends with the other neighbors, put in my swimming pool as planned -- and install a safety fence and a tall hedge on the side of my property that adjoins that of the nosy and presumptuous letter writer.

DEAR ABBY: It's amazing how younger people judge those already well into their later years. The following incident happened when I was 91. I'm now 92, and I still go to a local gym three times a week, lifting weights to keep my body in fairly good shape.

One day last year, I noticed a young man of about 30 lifting a bar with weights on the ends. I approached him and asked, "How much are you lifting?"

"Seventy pounds," he replied.

"Mind if I try?"

"Sure," he said, "go ahead."

When I lifted the weights as he did, he asked, "How old are you?"

"I'm 91," I replied.

Staring incredulously, he croaked, "And you're still standing?"

This gives you some idea how we in our later years are stereotyped, and how wrong some people can be. Don't sell us short. Not all of us are over the hill. -- MURRAY SHAW, PHOENIX

DEAR MURRAY: Your lesson is well taken. As any qualified butcher will tell you, prime beef only gets better when it is aged.

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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